Oklahoma workers who have recently lost their jobs may be eligible for unemployment benefits: payments available to employees who are out of work temporarily, through no fault of their own. Although the basic rules for unemployment are similar across the board, the benefit amounts, eligibility rules, and other details vary from state to state. This article explains how unemployment benefits work in Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) administers unemployment claims. You may file your claim for unemployment benefits electronically. You can find online filing information at the website of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.
Once the OESC receives your application, it will send you a Monetary Determination, which will detail your past earnings and state your potential weekly and total benefit amounts (see below).
The OESC determines eligibility on a case-by-case basis. You must meet three eligibility requirements to collect unemployment benefits in Oklahoma:
Like every state, Oklahoma looks at your recent work history and earnings during a one-year "base period" to determine your eligibility for unemployment. (For more information, see Nolo's article, Unemployment Compensation: Understanding the Base Period). In Oklahoma, as in most states, the base period is the earliest four of the five complete calendar quarters before you filed your benefits claim. For example, if you filed your claim in June of 2015, the base period would be from January 1, 2014, through December 31, 2014.
To qualify for benefits in Oklahoma, you must meet both of the following requirements:
You must be out of work through no fault of your own to qualify for unemployment benefits in Oklahoma.
Layoffs. If you were laid off, lost your job in a reduction-in-force (RIF), or got "downsized" for economic reasons, you will meet this requirement.
Firing. If you were fired because you lacked the skills to perform the job or simply weren't a good fit, you won’t necessarily be barred from receiving benefits. If, however, you were fired for misconduct, you will be disqualified from receiving benefits. Under Oklahoma law, misconduct includes dishonesty, violating a safety rule, willfully violating or neglecting your job duties, and unexplained absences.
Quitting. If you quit your job, you won't be eligible for unemployment benefits unless you had good cause. In general, good cause means that your reason for leaving the position was job-related and was so compelling that you had no other choice than to leave. For example, if you left your job because of sexual harassment that your employer refused to stop, you may be able to collect benefits. You will also likely be eligible if you were forced to work in unsafe conditions or your employer failed to pay you fully for your work.
You may still be eligible for benefits if you quit for certain compelling personal reasons, such as your own medical condition or to provide care for a family member. However, you must still be able and available to work at the time you apply for benefits (see below).
To keep collecting unemployment benefits, you must be able to work, available to work, and looking for employment. (For more information, see Nolo's article, Collecting Unemployment: Are You Able, Available, and Actively Seeking Work?) If you’re offered a suitable position, you must accept it.
Whether a position is suitable depends on a number of factors, including how similar the job is to your previous employment, how much you will be paid, the working conditions, and the skills, experience, and training required for the position. The longer you are unemployed, the more likely you will have to consider jobs that are different from, pay less than, or require a significantly longer commute than your prior position.
You must engage in a good faith search for work. The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission may ask you to provide contact information for employers you’ve reached out to at any point during your claim. You must be involved in at least two work search activities per week, including contacts with potential employers.
If you are eligible to receive unemployment, your weekly benefit rate in Oklahoma will be 1/23 of your wages in the highest paid quarter of the base period. The minimum amount you will receive each week is $16; the maximum amount you will receive is $490. You may receive benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks. (In times of very high unemployment, additional weeks of benefits may be available.)
If your unemployment claim is denied, you have ten days to appeal the decision. After receiving your appeal request, the Appeal Tribunal will schedule a hearing at which you can present evidence and witnesses. If you are unhappy with the Appeal Tribunal’s decision, you may file another appeal to the Board of Review within ten days of the mailing date of the decision. If you are still dissatisfied, you may file an appeal in court.
For more information on the unemployment process, including current eligibility requirements and benefits amounts, visit the website of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.